Noncoms Say FCC Auction Item Makes Grievous Error

Add PBS, CPB and APTS to the list of initials not happy with the FCC's incentive auction framework. They warn that the commission is risking breaking faith with its commitment to universal service.

NAB has already said it is unhappy with the FCC not holding broadcasters harmless if that means not freeing up sufficient spectrum for wireless broadband, now those noncommercial entities have gotten together to express their "profound disappointment" that the FCC framework does not ensure that no community is left behind—they had requested that no community be left without free access to a public TV station following the auction and repacking of stations into smaller spectrum space.

They point out that the Public Broadcasting Act mandates that public TV reach everyone, everywhere, for free, and say that the FCC has up to this point "honored and safeguarded that mandate."

Not any more, they suggest: "We believe the Commission’s rejection of this long-standing policy is a grievous error that risks breaking faith with the nation’s commitment to universal service for non-commercial educational television," they wrote in a joint statement.

But the news was hardly all bad for noncoms, and they acknowledged that. They said they appreciated that the FCC provided for forward funding of 90% of noncom stations repacking and relocation costs, must-carry rights for channels that share, allowing translators to continue until and unless there is a wireless buildout that affects them, increasing the proposed 18-month repacking time frame to 39 months, and more, and covering expenses unique to noncoms. "These are significant policy decisions benefiting public television and its viewers," they said.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.